Middle East

Behind the Headlines

We’re building a community of “backpacktivists” that are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in. We work with our local partners on community-requested projects to uncover the intricacies of each place we go to.

Unravel the complexities of the conflict in the Middle East as we go behind the headlines of what we commonly hear and see in mainstream media. We will explore the many lived experiences of this land, learning about the diverse alternative approaches to peace and reconciliation. This journey will connect us with the many local changemakers who are working tirelessly to bring an often-divided peoples together towards mutual understanding and dialogue.

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35-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution  

[currency_amount cad=”$3,515 CAD + $750 CAD
NOW $2,515 CAD + $750 CAD” usd=”$3,375 USD + $720 USD
NOW $2,435 USD + $720 USD”]

Program Dates

June 2 – July 6, 2018

July 14 – August 17, 2018

  • Explore the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while living in Jerusalem, one of the holiest cities in the world.
  • Meet with the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, an organization that fights the occupation through food forests.
  • Hike overnight down to the Dead Sea to catch the sunrise, jump in the Sea of Galilee, and walk along Tel Aviv’s beautiful beaches.
  • Work and stay at a West Bank community centre with Roots, a grassroots initiative led by local Palestinians and Israelis to create a physical space for mutual understanding and dialogue.
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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.


Following airport pickups from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv, we’ll go straight to Jerusalem for our in-country orientation. Our team will settle into our first of many homes by trying local cuisine, picking up the basics of Hebrew and Arabic, and seeing local historical sites such as the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock. We’ll educate ourselves with a crash course on the history, politics, and implications of the conflict while meeting with local experts to orient ourselves to the politics and demographics of Jerusalem.

We will have front row seats to Jerusalem’s amazing display of contradictions: ancient and modern, religious and secular, division and unity. We’ll also have a chance to visit the modern cosmopolitan city of Ramallah, the intense and divided city of Hebron, and other nearby cities in the West Bank. Get ready to kick off our learning about what life, resistance, and resilience look like outside of Jerusalem. This first week is an intense, but integral start to our journey!

Seed Saving in Bethlehem

From Jerusalem, we’ll head to Bethlehem where we’ll meet with the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library (PHSL), our first project-based partnership. Here in Bethlehem, PHSL seeks to tackle the environmental neglect that has come with years of occupation. Through food forestry and collecting seeds that have been handed down by Palestinian farmers for generations, PHSL takes a unique approach to the idea of land reclamation. We’ll lend a hand in this amazing initiative by getting into the dirt, gardening, weeding, and planting.

Our team will have the chance to contribute to the preservation of Palestinian culture and invest in the future generation of Palestinians through a lens of environmentalism.

Tent of Nations

From Bethlehem, we’ll travel into Area C of the West Bank to work and play on the gorgeous Tent of Nations farm, an environmental and educational farm that is at risk of being demolished by the Israeli army. We’ll have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people remaining steadfast on their land, and get creative about it too! Between weeding, moving rocks, and shovelling gravel, our group will be chilling by campfires and eating phenomenal vegetarian food. We’ll do our whatever it takes to keep this structure alive!

Breaking Bread with Roots

A centre in the West Bank run by Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, Roots’ goal is to bring the two often divided peoples together. Their farm, where we will be both living and working, is the hub of their outreach program in the West Bank, which includes monthly meetings between Israeli and Palestinian families, a women’s group, a summer camp, language learning, and cultural exchanges. In past years, we’ve worked with locals to plant trees, dig a cistern, and even build a playground in preparation for Roots’ inaugural summer camp. Get ready for home cooked meals, philosophical conversations that go late into the night, and maybe even sleeping under the stars!

Throughout our program, we will explore cities in both Israel and Palestine. In Israel, we will bike along the boardwalk in the liberal, metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, experience the communal lifestyle of the Israeli kibbutz, and hike in the lush mountains of the north. Moving through these very different communities, we will have the opportunity to speak with locals and get a diverse perspective on the region’s tense political situation.

Independent Travel Time (ITT)

A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. The wonders of Petra? The enchanting Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum? Hiking the Israel Trail? The mysticism of Zfat or surfing in Haifa? ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests by volunteering, traveling, or just relaxing!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation – Tel Aviv

Our group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. This will likely take place beachside in Tel Aviv where we will tell stories of ITT, reflect on the program, what we learned and our accomplishments, how we can stay in touch, and what future projects we can collaborate on. There are always a few surprises and a few tears before everyone heads off to the airport for our goodbyes!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Kick up your adrenaline by rafting along the ancient Jordan River.
  • Explore Jordan’s lost city of Petra and discover its archaeological wonders.
  • Visit an artists’ colony in Haifa and hike in the Galil in the north.
  • Hop the pond over to Istanbul, Greece, Italy, or Cyprus.


With OG, you live like the locals.

As the bible of backpacking goes, we’ll be sleeping in every kind of place imaginable! At times we’ll be based in a Jerusalem apartment or hostel, which will either have shared rooms or larger open areas where we’ll sleep on mattresses. When traveling in the West Bank and other areas of Israel, we’ll be staying in hostels, tents, community centres, and camping outside. Some accommodations will include a kitchen where we will be doing our own cooking, while other places we’ll have food prepared for us. Either way, cleaning up comes along with that, so be prepared for some chores and whistle while you work!

Meet Our Regional Director

Samira has always been interested in learning about, and from, different cultures and life experiences. Her inquisitive nature continued to evolve as she grew older so when she learned about sociocultural anthropology, everything changed. She considers herself an anthropologist, and has conducted research in Germany, Madagascar, and Tanzania. She thoroughly believes in immersive and educational travel, and is beyond excited to be working with OG in a region that is near and dear to her heart. She is eager to help bring backpacktivists to this wonderful region!

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